Emily’s Refusal to Allow Change in Her Life in “A Rose for Emily”

“A Rose for Emily” is a short story written by William Faulkner, an American author. Uniquely narrated in the first person perspective with the use of we, “A Rose for Emily” is a story about a woman named Emily who had a strong attachment or dependence on her father. It seemed time stopped when her father died that contributed to Emily’s refusal to see and accept change.

She experienced true aristocracy with her father who ruled her life and constructed a different reality for her. He let her believe that she is different from anybody else and that no man truly deserves her. Her father’s restrictions towards her and her social roles dominated her life even after her father’s death. Thus, in this short story, Faulkner highlights that social roles restrict an individual to manifest his or her true self, constraining rather than liberating her.

As Faulkner used the pronoun “we,” it can be inferred that the narrator is some of the townspeople sympathizing with Emily. By means of flashbacking, the narrator presents well-structured and detailed events of Emily’s life that can provide a deeper understanding of why there is pride and isolation in her character.

The story begins with Emily’s death at the age of 74 and flashes back to the near distant past of Emily’s life. Emily is a spinster perceived as a lonely woman who is so attached to the traditions and aristocracy of the past to the extent that she cannot accept change.

She shuts herself to the world and continually personifies the past until her death. Even with the emergence of materialism and when aristocracy was no longer a trend, Emily constantly believes that she would still be respected. This makes her a grotesque or unique personality in the setting that encourages the townspeople to analyze her life.

Emily’s father who represents the ruling class of the South contributed most to her arrogant personality. Emily was raised in an upper class home which made them prominent in the community. Hence, she perceived herself as rich and powerful, and their position in the community had unconsciously taught her to hold herself high from the surrounding people even after her father’s death.

As time passed by, perspective about class and status changed. People accepted the changes of time and ideas. However, Emily, who was a complex and well-developed character, chose not to adapt because of the social roles she grew up with. Thus, the story illustrates that privilege and aristocracy can sometimes be a prison.

The Negro who was an obedient gardener and cook and who provided Emily’s basic and practical needs is also symbolic in the story. This man connected Emily outside her small world. Yet, he isolated himself from the community for fear that he may disclose something about Emily that will disdain his loyalty.

Thus, the Negro unconsciously killed her relationship with the world outside and supported Emily’s violence against herself.  The Negro somehow fed Emily’s perception towards herself. The Negro, whom Emily had control over encourage Emily’s role in the society as aristocratic.

The rose in the story represents affection. It is the affection given by the narrator to Emily. Other people may perceive Emily’s pride and violence as something immoral, but the narrator’s point of view towards Emily is different. He clearly sympathizes with Emily and understands the reason behind Emily’s arrogance. The narrator justifies her actions through presenting series of events about her past. She was a victim of bitterness and complete attachment.

The community itself during her father’s time constructed a different reality for her that caused her to become so confident. The rose in the story may also signify Emily’s love for Homer. It represents the soft side of Emily which the outside world cannot see. She was perceived by the people as scandalous and proud. Yet, like any other person, Emily needs love and affection. Her love was violent and harsh though which represents the thorns of the rose.